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San Diego turns to predictive analytics for asset management

San Diego is no stranger to the increasing pressures of responding to citizen needs around the clock. But city officials are working to deploy a new infrastructure asset management tool that will help them keep assets up and running by using analytics to predict when systems need maintenance.   San Diego CIO Jonathan Behnke spoke with GCN about city efforts to dynamically respond to citizen concerns and the various initiatives that have improved quality of life for residents and city employees.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How is IT helping the city streamline operations?

Through our infrastructure asset management system, the departments of Public Works, Public Utilities, Transportation  and Storm Water and Information Technology are working together to share data on city assets and capital improvement projects.  We have a citywide working group for fiber, for example, that coordinates with other departments on capital improvement projects, such as replacing broken water pipes and road pavements.  When we are running new water pipes, we can lay conduits for wireless at the same time, which reduces costs significantly and minimizes disruptions. The new platform will enable us to view these activities on a master schedule and allow departments to collaborate on capital improvements. 

When the asset management system will be completed early next year, it will also allow us to track all of the assets in the city to predict when they need to be repaired or replaced.  Instead of a resident or business calling about a water leak or other issues, we will be able to run predictive analytics on when the asset should be repaired or replaced and do that maintenance before the asset breaks. 

For instance, if we know that certain assets have a 10-year life span, we can determine the average age when they need repair.  If we see repair on a certain part is coming up in five to six years, we can take that information and put it out to all of the associated assets in the same category or part number.  By aggregating information on maintenance, we can predict what repairs need to be done before we reach that point of breakage. 

The city is consolidating over 30 legacy systems into our SAP system to plan and manage the city’s assets.  Last year, the city moved to SAP HANA, an in-memory database, which gave us the ability to run reports on large datasets in real time.

What are some other initiatives to improve city services?

To report issues, the city released an app called Get It Done to allow residents to take pictures of issues -- whether it is potholes, graffiti or code enforcement violations -- and submit it in seconds.  Those submissions are loaded into the city’s SAP system, which allows employees to see a picture of what is being reported.  Graffiti crews, who are now armed with iPads, can view the image of the graffiti, complete their cleanup and take a picture of the completed work, which gets sent back to the person who reported it through the mobile app.

As of August, we had 26,000 downloads of the app since it launched last year, and the city has received somewhere close to 140,000 reports, so we are averaging 13,000 a month.  This allows the public to pick the channel that they want to report issues, have the ability to do it quickly and efficiently and see the results quickly from the city as we are taking care of it. 

How does open data fit into your city strategy?

The open data program is being done mostly in house, through our Performance Analytics Department that has released several hundred datasets.  The program was spun up two to three years ago, and we’ve got various websites such Perform SD to track performance and Streets SD to review street conditions and repair plans. Users can look at a map for the whole city and check any given street to see when maintenance is scheduled or completed. 

The city has a goal of repairing 1,000 miles of city streets by 2020, and a pretty good chunk of that has been completed in the past year and a half.  We also have an OpenGov site that shows visualizations of the city’s operating and capital budgets. It pulls data from SAP through its public budget formulation tool. For the city’s $3.6 billion budget, users can drill down into budget actuals by each department. 

Who does your city plan to move forward with the consolidation of your legacy systems?

We are continuing to improve our systems to drive efficiencies in reporting and security.  Through coordinating and consolidating activities like infrastructure asset management, procurement and code enforcement, we can continue to put new initiatives on our roadmap.  We want to improve the user experience for city employees and the public by taking advantage of analytics and getting more value out of the data as we aggregate the information and find new things to do with it.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at sfriedman@gcn.com or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.


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